Body louse

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This article is about the animal. For the disease caused by body lice, see Pediculosis corporis.
Body louse
Body lice.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Phthiraptera
Suborder: Anoplura
Family: Pediculidae
Genus: Pediculus
Species: P. humanus
Subspecies: P. h. humanus
Trinomial name
Pediculus humanus humanus
Linnaeus, 1758

The body louse (Pediculus humanus humanus, sometimes called Pediculus humanus corporis)[1] is a louse that infests humans. The condition of being infested with head lice, body lice, or pubic lice is known as pediculosis. The body louse genome sequence analysis was published in 2010.[2][3]

Life cycle and morphology[edit]

Pediculus humanus humanus (the body louse) is indistinguishable in appearance from Pediculus humanus capitis (the head louse) but will interbreed only under laboratory conditions. In their natural state, they occupy different habitats and do not usually meet. In particular, body lice have evolved to attach their eggs to clothes, whereas head lice attach their eggs to the base of hairs.

The life cycle of the body louse consists of three stages: egg (also called a nit), nymph, and adult.[citation needed]

  1. Nits are louse eggs. They are generally easy to see in the seams of an infested person's clothing, particularly around the waistline, under armpits or even in body hair. They are oval and usually yellow to white in color. Body lice nits may take 1–2 weeks to hatch.
  2. A nymph is an immature louse that hatches from the nit (egg). A nymph looks like an adult body louse, but is smaller. Nymphs mature into adults about 9–12 days after hatching. To live, it must feed on blood.
  3. The adult body louse is about the size of a sesame seed (2.5–3.5 mm), has six legs, and is tan to greyish-white. Females lay eggs. To live, lice must feed on blood. If separated from their hosts, lice die at room temperature.


The body louse diverged from the head louse at around 100,000 years ago, hinting at the time of the origin of clothing.[4][5][6] Body Lice were first described by Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buxton, Patrick A. (1947). "The Anatomy of Pediculus humanus". The Louse; an account of the lice which infest man, their medical importance and control (2nd ed.). London: Edward Arnold. pp. 5–23. 
  2. ^ Pittendrigh, B.R., et al (2006). Proposed sequencing of a new target genome: the human body louse, Pediculus humanus humanus. J. Med. Entom. 43(6): 1103–1111.
  3. ^ Kirkness et al. (2010). "Genome sequences of the human body louse and its primary endosymbiont provide insights into the permanent parasitic lifestyle." PNAS 107(27): 12168-12173.
  4. ^ Ralf Kittler, Manfred Kayser & Mark Stoneking (2003). "Molecular evolution of Pediculus humanus and the origin of clothing" (PDF). Current Biology 13 (16): 1414–1417. doi:10.1016/S0960-9822(03)00507-4. PMID 12932325. 
  5. ^ Stoneking, Mark. "Erratum: Molecular evolution of Pediculus humanus and the origin of clothing". Retrieved March 24, 2008. 
  6. ^ "...Lice Indicates Early Clothing Use ...", Mol Biol Evol (2011) 28 (1): 29–32.

External links[edit]